Russia threatens to bypass Riga for coal

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The Riga Freeport has received unofficial information that Russian Railways will stop coal transit through the Riga port, said the port’s board chairman (and Riga vice mayor) Andris Ameriks in an interview with Latvian public television on Thursday.

He voiced hopes that the threat will not come true as it would be a blow to both Riga port and Latvia’s national economy. 

Ameriks said that the first seven months of this year had been positive for the Riga port – cargo turnover has risen by 1 percent.

"On Wednesday afternoon we received unofficial information from the railway, that Russia might stop sending coal cargo through Riga port. It might affect the situation very seriously as coal cargo accounts for more than one third of cargos served at the port,” said Ameriks.

He underscored that so far it is unofficial information and did not name its source.

"I hope that this information will not be confirmed, but usually unofficial information is followed by next steps,” he said.

"Coal cargoes account for some 13-14 million tonnes, worth 130-140 million euros," he said.

Riga is the largest Latvian port both by cargo turnover and the number of passengers.

It is publicly-owned but controlled by a board of political appointees from Riga city council including Ameriks, and its chief executive is Leonids Loginovs, whose many years in charge have made him one of the country's richest men.

The threatened removal of the coal supply business from Latvia comes just days after Latvian Railways boss Ugis Magonis was arrested by anti-corruption police. Coincidentaly, Magonis was a personal friend of Russian Railways boss Vladimir Yakunin. 

Also speaking on LTV, Latvian MEP Andrejs Mamikins (Harmony party) expressed fears that the arrest of Magonis would result in a worsening of economic relations with Russia.

"The Russian way of business depends a lot upon private contacts... this factor has played a very positive role in the growth of cargoes," Mamikins said, then expessed the fear that a new head of Latvian Railways might not enjoy the same rapport with Yakunin.

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